Información

Por qué Ralph Ellison nunca publicó una segunda novela durante su vida


Aclamada como una de las mejores novelas del siglo XX, "El hombre invisible", estableció a Ralph Ellison como uno de los escritores más famosos de Estados Unidos. Los fanáticos, críticos y académicos esperaban con impaciencia su segunda novela, que Ellison había comenzado a escribir a mediados de la década de 1950. Esperarían mucho tiempo.

Ellison irrumpió en la escena literaria en 1952 con la publicación de su novela debut "El hombre invisible", que pasó 16 semanas en la lista de bestsellers y ganó el Premio Nacional del Libro (superando a "El viejo y el mar" de Ernest Hemingway y a John Steinbeck “East of Eden”, entre otros), convirtiéndose en el primer autor negro en ganar el premio.

En los años que siguieron a “El hombre invisible”, Ellison publicó ensayos aclamados, pero no logró producir la segunda y ambiciosa segunda novela que había prometido. A finales de 1965, Ralph Ellison finalmente publicó un extracto de ese libro tan esperado en la Quarterly Review of Literature. El extracto, titulado "June 16th", hacía referencia al feriado del 19 de junio que marcaba el día en 1865 cuando un general de la Unión llegó a Texas y anunció que los 250.000 esclavos del estado eran libres de acuerdo con la Proclamación de Emancipación.

La historia, sobre un ministro bautista negro que cría a un niño de raza indeterminada, solo para verlo reinventarse a sí mismo como un senador estadounidense que incita a la raza, despertó el apetito del público por una próxima novela de Ellison. Los fanáticos que esperan leer un nuevo trabajo de Ellison en los próximos meses, sin embargo, se sentirían muy decepcionados. En 1967, un incendio arrasó la casa de verano del autor y partes del segundo libro inacabado se perdieron en las llamas. A finales de la década de 1970, la esposa de Ellison, Fanny, afirmó que había estado listo para entregar la novela a su editor, justo antes de que el incendio reclamara el manuscrito.

Ellison había comenzado a escribir su seguimiento de "Invisible Man" ya en 1954. Durante los siguientes 13 años, continuó trabajando en él a través del surgimiento del movimiento de derechos civiles liderado por el Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., que trajo a la vanguardia de los problemas políticos, sociales y raciales en los que se esperaba que interviniera Ellison, como el escritor afroamericano más destacado de la nación.

La presión para publicar el libro aumentó en noviembre de 1967, cuando Ellison y su esposa Fanny regresaron de hacer recados y encontraron su hogar en Plainfield, Massachusetts envuelto en llamas. Aunque el fuego adquirió proporciones míticas a lo largo de los años, no está claro exactamente cuánto trabajo perdió. En su biografía de 2007 de Ellison, Arnold Rampersad citó una carta que Ellison escribió unas cinco semanas después del incidente, en la que parecía relativamente tranquilo: “Perdí parte de mi manuscrito, las revisiones en las que había trabajado [en] el verano y valiosas cuadernos. Pero desde que regresé a Nueva York he estado trabajando duro y me estoy reconstruyendo gradualmente ".

Pero a lo largo de los meses y años venideros, la pérdida pareció intensificarse en la mente de Ellison. Según Rampersad, en octubre del año siguiente, Ellison le dijo a un periodista en Carolina del Norte que había perdido 365 páginas. En entrevistas posteriores, el número total de páginas destruidas se convirtió en 500.

En un perfil publicado en el Neoyorquino a principios de 1994, cuatro décadas después de que Ellison comenzara a trabajar en la novela, el autor habló con David Remnick sobre el impacto del fuego. “Perdimos una casa de verano y, con ella, buena parte de la novela. No era el manuscrito completo, pero tenía más de trescientas sesenta páginas. No había copia ". Cuando Remnick le preguntó cuánto tiempo había perdido, Ellison hizo una pausa antes de responder: "Sabes, no estoy seguro. Es un poco borroso para mí. Pero la novela me ha llamado la atención ahora. Trabajo todos los días, así que pronto habrá algo ".

Dos meses después de esa entrevista, Ellison murió de cáncer de páncreas a la edad de 80 años. Su amigo y albacea literario, John Callahan, se encontró responsable de las más de 2.000 páginas de trabajo que Ellison dejó, sin instrucciones sobre qué hacer con ellas. . De este voluminoso material, Callahan extrajo lo que se convertiría en una novela de 350 páginas, "June 19th", publicada en 1999.

La novela comienza con un intento de asesinato de un joven negro contra Adam Sunraider, un senador notoriamente intolerante de un estado de Nueva Inglaterra. Gravemente herido, el senador llama a su lado al reverendo Alonzo Hickman, un ex músico de jazz convertido en ministro bautista que acogió a Sunraider cuando era niño y lo crió como un prodigio de la predicación. Mientras Hickman y Sunraider recuerdan su pasado juntos, se concentran en un sermón lleno de acontecimientos que celebra la festividad del diecinueve de junio en una iglesia del sur, durante el cual el joven Bliss, como se conocía entonces a Sunraider, se entera de que su madre era una mujer blanca. La revelación lo lanza en su camino de independencia de Hickman y, finalmente, a una carrera en el entretenimiento y la política controvertida.

En una entrevista en 2010, Callahan afirmó que el bloqueo del escritor no había sido problema de Ellison. "Ellison escribió y escribió y escribió y escribió", dijo. También estuvo de acuerdo con la conclusión de Rampersad de que Ellison perdió "aproximadamente un verano de revisiones" en el incendio de 1967. Al final, después de 40 años de trabajo, parecía que el peso de las expectativas masivas, el volumen inmanejable de la narrativa y la presión para dar voz a los eventos transformadores de la época se habían combinado para asegurar que Ellison nunca completara la arrolladora novela de América. él se imaginó.

A pesar de su llegada tardía y su inevitable fracaso a la hora de estar a la altura del éxito de "Invisible Man", "June decimocta" de Ellison se erige como un tributo a la vida de un escritor lidiando con las contradicciones y complejidades de la raza. En su lecho de muerte, el senador ficticio Sunraider, que descarta la festividad del 19 de junio como "la celebración de una ilusión chillona", se da cuenta de que su propia narrativa no es solo una historia de libertad y éxito. En cambio, está intrínsecamente ligado a la historia del joven que le disparó y la historia de los ex esclavos que supieron de su independencia ese día de junio de 1865.


Ralph Ellison

Ralph Waldo Ellison (1 de marzo de 1913 [a] - 16 de abril de 1994) fue un novelista, crítico literario y académico afroamericano mejor conocido por su novela Hombre invisible, que ganó el Premio Nacional del Libro en 1953. [2] También escribió Sombra y acto (1964), una colección de ensayos políticos, sociales y críticos, y Yendo al Territorio (1986). Para Los New York Times, el mejor de estos ensayos, además de la novela, lo coloca "entre los dioses del Parnaso literario de América". [3] Una novela póstuma, Diecinueve de junio, fue publicado después de haber sido recopilado a partir de voluminosas notas que dejó a su muerte.


La década de 1940

Durante las décadas de 1930 y 1940, Hughes y Sterling A. Brown mantuvieron vivo el espíritu popular en la poesía afroamericana. Admiradora de Hughes, Margaret Walker se dedicó Para mi gente (1942), cuyo poema principal sigue siendo uno de los textos más populares para la recitación y la interpretación en la literatura afroamericana, para la misma base afroamericana que celebraron Hughes y Brown. A principios de la década de 1940, tres figuras, Melvin B. Tolson, Robert Hayden y Gwendolyn Brooks de Chicago, mostraban cómo la tradición vernácula podía adaptarse a la experimentación modernista. La variedad de expresividad e innovación formal en la poesía afroamericana de la década de 1940 se refleja en el densamente alusivo libro de Tolson. Encuentro con América (1942), los poemas de historia meditativa de Hayden como "Middle Passage" (1945) y "Frederick Douglass" (1947), y el tributo de Brooks a la vitalidad y los rigores de la vida urbana negra en Una calle en Bronzeville (1945) y su volumen ganador del premio Pulitzer, Annie Allen (1949). La década de 1940 fue también una década de experimentación creativa en autobiografía, dirigida por Du Bois Anochecer del amanecer (1940), un autodenominado "ensayo hacia una autobiografía de un concepto de raza" de Hurston. Huellas de polvo en una carretera (1942), una empresa temprana en la "autoetnografía", la escritura del yo a través de la caracterización de una cultura (en este caso, la cultura rural sureña negra de las raíces de Hurston) J. Saunders Redding's No hay día de triunfo (1942), la historia de la búsqueda de un profesional del norte alienado por una inmersión redentora en las comunidades de la clase trabajadora negra del sur y la de Wright. Muchacho negro.


Ralph Ellison

Nuestros editores revisarán lo que ha enviado y determinarán si deben revisar el artículo.

Ralph Ellison, en su totalidad Ralph Waldo Ellison, (nacido el 1 de marzo de 1914, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, EE. UU.; fallecido el 16 de abril de 1994, Nueva York, Nueva York), escritor estadounidense que ganó eminencia con su primera novela (y la única publicada durante su vida), Hombre invisible (1952).

Ellison dejó el Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (ahora Tuskegee University) en 1936 después de tres años de estudio de música y se mudó a la ciudad de Nueva York. Allí se hizo amigo de Richard Wright, quien animó a Ellison a probar suerte con la escritura. En 1937, Ellison comenzó a contribuir cuentos, reseñas y ensayos a varias publicaciones periódicas. Trabajó en el Proyecto Federal de Escritores de 1938 a 1942, que siguió con una temporada como editor gerente de El negro trimestral por poco menos de un año.

Tras su servicio en la Segunda Guerra Mundial, produjo Hombre invisible, que ganó el Premio Nacional del Libro de 1953 de ficción. La historia es un bildungsroman que habla de un joven negro sureño ingenuo e idealista (y, significativamente, sin nombre) que va a Harlem, se une a la lucha contra la opresión blanca y termina siendo ignorado por sus compañeros negros, así como por los blancos. La novela ganó elogios por sus innovaciones estilísticas al infundir motivos literarios clásicos con el habla y la cultura negras modernas, al tiempo que proporciona una visión completamente única de la construcción de la identidad afroamericana contemporánea. Sin embargo, el tratamiento de Ellison de su novela como ante todo una obra de arte, en oposición a una obra principalmente polémica, provocó algunas quejas de sus compañeros novelistas negros en ese momento de que no estaba lo suficientemente dedicado al cambio social.

Después Hombre invisible aparecido, Ellison publicó sólo dos colecciones de ensayos: Sombra y acto (1964) y Yendo al Territorio (1986). Dio numerosas conferencias sobre la cultura negra, el folclore y la escritura creativa y enseñó en varios colegios y universidades estadounidenses. Volando a casa y otras historias fue publicado póstumamente en 1996. Dejó una segunda novela sin terminar a su muerte que se publicó, en una forma muy abreviada, como Diecinueve de junio en 1999. Las cartas seleccionadas de Ralph Ellison fue lanzado en 2019.


6.8: Ralph Ellison (1914-1994)

  • Berke, Bleil y amp Cofer
  • Profesores (inglés) en Middle Georgia State University, College of Coastal Georgia y Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
  • Obtenido de University of North Georgia Press

Ralph Waldo Ellison nació en Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. El padre de Ellison & rsquos, Lewis, un trabajador manual que entregaba hielo y carbón, era un ávido lector que nombró a su hijo en honor a Ralph Waldo Emerson y que esperaba que su hijo creciera y se convirtiera en poeta. Desafortunadamente, murió de un accidente relacionado con el trabajo cuando Ellison tenía tres años, lo que dejó a los dos hermanos, Robert y Herbert, para que fueran criados por su madre soltera, Ida. La ausencia de su padre seguiría siendo un tema recurrente en el trabajo de Ellison & rsquos.

Cuando era joven, Ellison estaba interesado en las artes y la cultura, específicamente, la música. En 1933, se matriculó en el Instituto Tuskegee, una universidad históricamente negra que ofrecía uno de los mejores programas de música de la nación. Durante su tiempo en Tuskegee, Ellison se ganó la reputación de pasar largas horas en la biblioteca, leyendo mucho de varios escritores modernistas. Ellison cita a T. S. Eliot & rsquos La tierra de residuos como una gran influencia en su vida, inspirándolo a ser escritor. Después de la universidad, Ellison se mudó a Nueva York, donde conoció al influyente artista Romare Bearden y al escritor Richard Wright, quienes fueron importantes influencias en la vida de Ellison & rsquos. Durante este tiempo en Nueva York, Ellison comenzó a publicar cuentos, ensayos y reseñas de libros.

En 1952, Ellison publicó su primera novela, El hombre invisible, un éxito de ventas crítico que ganó el Premio Nacional del Libro. La novela lo colocó en el centro de atención internacional como escritor, una posición que no siempre abrazó. El hombre invisible describe cómo el protagonista (que nunca se nombra y es, por lo tanto, "invisible") experimenta varios incidentes de racismo a lo largo de su vida después de mudarse del sur a Nueva York. La novela, Ellison & rsquos, la única publicada durante su vida, sigue siendo una de las novelas más famosas e influyentes de la literatura estadounidense. Pasó el resto de su vida trabajando en una novela de seguimiento. En 1967, afirmó estar cerca de terminar esta novela cuando un incendio en una casa consumió sus borradores. Después de su muerte, su seguimiento póstumo se publicó bajo el título Diecinueve de junio (1999) más tarde se publicó una versión más larga de esta novela con el título Tres días antes del rodaje (2010).

Aunque nunca publicó una segunda novela en su vida, publicó varios ensayos, incluidos ensayos sobre su amor de toda la vida por la música. Su colección de ensayos Sombra y acto (1964) fue nombrado uno de los 100 mejores libros de no ficción del siglo XX. Uno de los temas comunes del trabajo de Ellison & rsquos, tanto en ficción como en no ficción, fue la idea de ascendencia cultural, la idea de que nuestros ancestros culturales podían ser tan influyentes como nuestros ancestros biológicos. & ldquoBattle Royale, & rdquo el capítulo inicial de El hombre invisible, describe la experiencia humillante del protagonista & rsquos al aceptar una beca de una organización cívica local. Aunque es el capítulo introductorio, ha sido altamente antologizado como cuento.


Novela interminable de Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison es más famoso por dos cosas: escribir el clásico Hombre invisible y nunca publicar otra novela durante su vida. La historia de su supuesto bloqueo de escritor se ha vuelto casi tan familiar para muchos lectores como cualquier cosa que publicara.

Adam Bradley, profesor asociado de inglés en la Universidad de Colorado en Boulder, quiere reescribir esa historia. En Ralph Ellison en progreso (publicado este mes por Yale University Press), argumenta que el trabajo que hizo Ellison en la segunda mitad de su vida revela aún más sobre la agenda artística y la ambición del escritor que Hombre invisible lo hace, y nos permite leer esa obra clásica con ojos nuevos.

Con demasiada frecuencia, "la historia de la vida literaria de Ellison parece una tragedia: promesa incumplida, talento disipado, creatividad extinguida demasiado pronto", escribe Bradley. Pero las miles de páginas de notas, manuscritos mecanografiados e impresiones de computadora que dejó Ellison no suenan como el legado de archivo de un escritor bloqueado.

Bradley ha tenido la oportunidad de conocer el trabajo de Ellison de una manera que la mayoría de los eruditos literarios nunca lo han hecho: se desempeñó como coeditor, con John F. Callahan, profesor de humanidades en Lewis & amp Clark College, de Tres días antes del rodaje. (publicado en enero por Modern Library). Es la versión más completa que tenemos hasta ahora de la segunda novela inacabada de Ellison. (Callahan publicó partes de la novela en 1999 bajo el título Diecinueve de junio.)

"Siempre pensé que había algo gracioso cuando escuché a la gente decir que Ellison era víctima del bloqueo del escritor", dice Bradley en una entrevista. En cuanto a las conclusiones de que “de alguna manera, Ellison había quitado la vista de sus escritos y se había dirigido simplemente a otras actividades, ya fueran algún tipo de vida social, su variado calendario social como se muestra en la biografía reciente de Arnold Rampersad [Ralph Ellison: una biografía, publicado por Knopf en 2007], me pareció demasiado fácil echarle la culpa a eso, especialmente teniendo en cuenta la evidencia de su trabajo ”, dice Bradley. Trabajar a través de los 46,000 artículos en el archivo de Ellison, ahora ubicado en la Biblioteca del Congreso, lo ha persuadido de que "este era un hombre dedicado a su trabajo".

Bradley se ha hecho un nombre con su propio trabajo en rap y hip-hop. Es el autor de Libro de rimas: la poética del hip hop (Basic Civitas Books, 2009), y ahora está ayudando a editar una antología de letras de rap que publicará este otoño la Yale University Press.

Ellison, un hombre devoto del jazz que se balancea, puede parecer muy alejado de los raperos de hoy, pero Bradley ve una conexión. "No es que a Ellison le hubiera gustado el hip-hop, pero me hace un mejor oyente del hip-hop al enseñarme ciertas cosas sobre cómo abordar la cultura afroamericana, cómo pensar en el proceso vernáculo, los medios por los cuales las personas creativas tome lo que tenga a mano y cree nuevas formas ”, dice.

Más tarde, por correo electrónico, Bradley amplifica ese punto. “Ellison solía hablar de lo que denominó el 'proceso vernáculo', el medio por el cual uno toma un estilo heredado y lo combina con uno improvisado para crear algo completamente nuevo. El hip-hop hace precisamente esto, tomando tocadiscos heredados y álbumes de discos y creando un nuevo instrumento a partir de ellos o tomando ritmos verbales familiares, desde rimas infantiles, cancioneros publicitarios, lo que sea, y convirtiéndolos en una poesía moderna en el rap ".

El interés de Bradley en Ellison se remonta a la primavera de 1993, cuando era estudiante de primer año en Lewis & amp Clark College, en Portland, Oregón, donde estudió con Callahan. Entre las novelas que leyó, Hombre invisible significaba más.

“Hablaba de muchas de las cosas a las que me estaba enfrentando en ese momento, ser un niño birracial con un padre negro y una madre blanca”, recuerda Bradley. "Leer ese libro se convirtió en mi estrella polar de muchas maneras".

Ellison murió en la primavera de 1994, un año después de que Bradley leyó Hombre invisible. Callahan, quien fue nombrado albacea literario, necesitaba un asistente de investigación y le preguntó a Bradley, que entonces tenía 19 años y era estudiante de segundo año, si estaría interesado. "No tuve que pensar mucho en eso", dice Bradley, llamándolo un "momento milagroso".

En una entrevista, Callahan recuerda cuán fuertemente respondió Bradley a los escritos de Ellison. "Hombre invisible fue hasta la médula de la identidad de Adam y la persona en la que se estaba convirtiendo ”, dice.

Ese compromiso con Ellison ha persistido, con algunos descansos. Bradley escribió su disertación sobre las teorías del mal en novelas afroamericanas escritas después de 1950, pero no incluyó Hombre invisible. "Estaba tan influenciado por el pensamiento de Ellison", explica. “Sentí la necesidad de romper y crear una perspectiva independiente. Lo gracioso de eso es que las veces que traté de alejarme de Ellison a lo largo de mi carrera, terminé retrocediendo ".

El libro de Bradley, dice Callahan, abre la conversación sobre lo que las notas y los manuscritos del archivo nos dicen no solo sobre la segunda novela de Ellison, sino también sobre la primera. Ayuda que los académicos ahora tengan un mayor acceso al archivo de Ellison, aunque siguen existiendo algunas restricciones.

Antes de que el archivo fuera a la Biblioteca del Congreso, estuvo alojado durante un tiempo en Lewis & amp Clark. Bradley recuerda haber ayudado a Callahan a llevar cajas a una habitación en una vieja casa en el campus. “Otro momento milagroso ocurrió cuando el profesor Callahan me dijo: 'Si tiene algo de tiempo y está interesado, puede seguir adelante y comenzar a buscar en algunas de estas páginas del manuscrito la segunda novela de Ellison', recuerda.

Así que Bradley se encontró leyendo el trabajo más reciente de Ellison, algunas de las páginas que el escritor había escrito en su computadora solo unos meses antes. “Lo que me llamó la atención, y este fue un momento que cambió el curso de mi vida, no creo que sea mucho para decir, fue encontrar algo que nunca hubiera esperado encontrar en la obra de un escritor de Ellison. estatura, y eso fue un error tipográfico ”, dice Bradley. “Y luego vi otro y otro y otro. Y luego me volví un poco arrogante y pensé: Esa no es una muy buena oración ".

Sin embargo, a medida que trabajaba más con los manuscritos y veía a Ellison hacer cambios a lo largo del camino, Bradley pensó: “Así es como surge la grandeza. Este es Ralph Ellison en progreso ". De ahí el título del nuevo libro, que según el académico "encarna todo lo que he pensado sobre Ellison desde que tenía 19 años".

Ralph Ellison en progreso: de "El hombre invisible" a "Tres días antes del rodaje". " se centra en los años decisivos en la vida de los escritores de Ellison. Funciona hacia atrás en el tiempo: 1982, cuando comenzó a trabajar en una computadora 1970, cuando era "un autor bajo asedio", como dice Bradley, atacado como "un escritor del establishment" y "un tío Tom", en las palabras de un crítico marxista en la década de 1950, en el nacimiento del movimiento por los derechos civiles, cuando Ellison ya había estado tomando notas para su segunda novela mientras trabajaba en la primera 1945, cuando comenzó a trabajar en Hombre invisible.

A lo largo de su libro, Bradley desentraña los hilos que conectan la primera y la segunda novela de Ellison. Por ejemplo, en la sección sobre 1945, Bradley identifica el "realismo dilatado" como la "filosofía gobernante" de ambos libros. La noción de realismo dilatado, más que naturalismo, no del todo surrealismo, proviene de Ellison, quien, en una introducción a un extracto de Hombre invisible publicado en 1948, explicó que el libro tenía la intención de ser “una casi alegoría o una metáfora extendida. . Un realismo dilatado para lidiar con el estado casi surrealista de nuestra vida cotidiana en Estados Unidos ".

También encuentra evidencia en el archivo de que "El hombre invisible una vez tuvo una esposa". Las notas de trabajo de Ellison revelan que desde el principio imaginó una historia de amor interracial como uno de los principales motores de la historia, solo para descartarla. "Como Ellison lo imaginó, Hombre invisible sería una especie de historia de amor, aunque en la que el motivo principal de la relación no sea la comunión de las almas, sino la creación de una entidad individual ”, escribe Bradley. "Esta nota textual y los borradores del manuscrito que reflejan su espíritu en la ficción sugieren un alejamiento radical de la novela publicada, una nueva visión ficticia en la que la relación del Hombre Invisible con una mujer no solo es significativa sino elemental".

En los borradores de la segunda novela, Bradley encuentra a Ellison realmente tratando de lidiar con el amor como tema. Él piensa que eso podría ser en parte el resultado liberador de trabajar en una computadora en lugar de en una máquina de escribir o a mano.

"Sus mejores improvisaciones en la computadora, en particular aquellas desviaciones que lo alejan del terreno ficticio familiar, se encuentran entre los escritos más desnudos emocionalmente que produjo Ellison", escribe Bradley en Ralph Ellison en progreso. “Dentro de ellos, se ocupa de temas que en gran parte no se han considerado en otras partes de su ficción, incluso en encarnaciones anteriores de la segunda novela. Entre ellos destaca el amor, tanto filial como romántico ”.

La novela involucra a un predicador y jazzman negro mayor llamado Alonzo Hickman y a un senador de hostigamiento racial llamado Adam Sunraider. Cuando era más joven, en la zona rural de Georgia, Hickman ayudó a criar a Sunraider, luego llamado Bliss, un huérfano "de raza indefinida que parece blanca". Años más tarde, Hickman llega a Washington para intentar detener el asesinato de Sunraider por parte del hijo separado del senador.

Tres días antes del rodaje. , la versión que Callahan y Bradley reunieron a partir de las notas y borradores de la segunda novela en el archivo de Ellison, tiene casi mil páginas. Es un gran libro en todos los sentidos, lleno de democracia y demagogia, raza y religión, padres (reales y sustitutos) e hijos.

La evidencia de archivo sugiere que la computadora le dio a Ellison más libertad para experimentar. “Puedes ver a Ellison jugando en los archivos de la computadora”, dice Bradley. “Puedes verlo improvisando la palabra en sí y divirtiéndose mucho con su creación. Al mismo tiempo, puede sentir que la computadora puede haberse convertido en un facilitador de algunas de las debilidades literarias de Ellison, la más grande es su casi manía por la revisión ".

Los borradores de Hombre invisible muestran que Ellison tomaría un montón de notas y luego escribiría “riffs a mano que integraría en borradores mecanografiados”, escribe Bradley en su libro. "Llevaba pluma o lápiz a estas páginas mecanografiadas, sometiéndolas a revisiones escrupulosas, a menudo produciendo media docena, incluso una docena, de borradores hasta que estaba satisfecho". Luego, él o su esposa, Fanny, tomarían esos borradores y los volverían a escribir todos en una copia limpia que él editaría más.

Bradley ve la segunda novela como un texto fluido. "La misma escena puede existir en múltiples iteraciones, cada una manteniendo la misma autoridad", escribe. “En otras palabras, realmente no existe un borrador obsoleto. Nada es obsoleto porque Ellison nunca hizo ningún juicio final, nunca tomó las decisiones difíciles que convierten un manuscrito en una novela. La computadora permitió esto al crear un 'texto fluido', uno que pospuso indefinidamente la fijeza de un manuscrito impreso ".

A un escritor le puede resultar difícil dejar de lado esa sensación de posibilidad infinita, pero un libro terminado requiere que el autor tome decisiones y excluya ciertas posibilidades. Es tentador decir que la computadora, que facilita la revisión tras revisión tras revisión ad infinitum, es lo que impidió que Ellison terminara la segunda novela.

Bradley cree que es un análisis demasiado fácil. "No importa cuánto tiempo tuviera Ellison, no estoy seguro de que alguna vez hubiera terminado el libro", dice. "No importa qué tipo de equipo tuviera, no estoy seguro de que alguna vez hubiera terminado el libro".

Incluso antes de que Ellison cambiara a la computadora, tenía suficiente para una novela. "Es un buen editor, lejos de ser una obra de ficción publicable", dice Bradley sobre la evidencia del manuscrito en esa etapa intermedia. "La pregunta se reduce a por qué Ellison no estaba listo para dejar ir el manuscrito".

Para Bradley, la respuesta tiene algo que ver con el tema de Ellison: Estados Unidos en sí. “Se sienta a escribir esto justo cuando el movimiento por los derechos civiles está tomando forma”, dice Bradley. Después Hombre invisible, Ellison escribió durante el resto de la década de 1950 y hasta la década de 1960, a través de los asesinatos y los hitos legislativos y sociales y la Guerra de Vietnam. El tiempo avanzó durante décadas. Estados Unidos cambió, por lo que la novela también tuvo que seguir cambiando. "Me lo imagino sentado y mirando hacia arriba, cuando estaba satisfecho con lo que había hecho, para ver que el mundo había cambiado, luego volver al trabajo, y así sucesivamente", explica Bradley.

Cuando anunció en su página de Facebook que Tres días antes del rodaje. estaba saliendo, recibió comentarios de varios de los artistas de hip-hop que ha conocido, incluido el rapero Bun B.

“Estaba tan emocionado”, recuerda Bradley. Le envié una copia y la ha estado leyendo. Eso solo te muestra lo que Ellison entendió tan bien. A menudo decía: "Este es un país loco". Lo decía como una forma de elogio. Quería decir que es un país donde todo es posible ".

Al final, sugiere Bradley, lo que pudo haber impedido que Ellison publicara una segunda novela no fue el bloqueo del escritor, sino el deseo de sostener un espejo lo suficientemente grande para reflejar las complejidades de Estados Unidos. En esa segunda novela, Ellison estaba tratando de averiguar “cómo lograr describirse a Estados Unidos a sí mismo y al mundo”, dice Bradley. "Esto puede ser lo más cerca que llegaremos de la Gran Novela Estadounidense en el sentido más puro, un lugar grandioso, desordenado y conflictivo que, sin embargo, tiene una gran belleza y potencial".


Blogis librorum. Un blog sobre libros. Libros raros.

El 30 de marzo de 1820, Anna Sewell nació en una familia devotamente cuáquera. Su madre, Mary Wright Sewell, fue una exitosa autora de libros para niños. Sewell se educó principalmente en casa y no asistió a la escuela por primera vez hasta los doce años. Dos años después, se lesionó gravemente ambos tobillos en un accidente. A partir de entonces, Sewell tuvo una movilidad extremadamente limitada, requirió muletas y nunca pudo caminar grandes distancias.

Sewell recurrió al uso de carruajes tirados por caballos para el transporte. Pronto se enamoró de los caballos y se preocupó profundamente por su trato humano. Esa inquietud la llevó a emprender el clásico infantil Belleza negra. Sewell emprendió la novela no para niños, sino para quienes se preocupaban por los caballos. Ella dijo que su "objetivo especial [era] inducir amabilidad, simpatía y comprensión" hacia los equinos. Pero cuando Sewell comenzó la novela en 1871, su salud ya empeoraba. Al principio, le narró la historia a su madre. En 1876, Sewell comenzó a escribir en pequeños trozos de papel, que luego su madre transcribía.

Sewell completado Belleza negra en 1877, solo cinco meses antes de su fallecimiento. Sin embargo, vivió lo suficiente para disfrutar del éxito inicial del libro. Aunque Sewell terminó solo una novela durante su vida, ese libro ha sobrevivido como un maravilloso legado literario.

Sewell es uno de los muchos autores legendarios que lograron publicar solo una novela durante su vida. Aquí hay un par de ejemplos más de tales autores.

Edgar Allan Poe

Uno de los primeros autores estadounidenses en abrazar el cuento, Edgar Allan Poe fue un maestro del suspenso y el horror. Se le atribuye haber originado la ficción detectivesca y haber contribuido a la evolución de la ciencia ficción. Un autor verdaderamente prolífico, Poe fue el primer autor estadounidense en ganarse la vida (por insignificante que fuera a veces) a través de la escritura. Sin embargo, solo escribió una novela: La narrativa de Arthur Gordon Pym de Nantucket (1838). Jules Verne escribiría más tarde una secuela en 1897 llamada Un misterio anártico, pero también conocido como La Esfinge de los Campos de Hielo.

Emily Brontë

Al igual que sus hermanas, Emily Brontë publicó originalmente bajo un seudónimo más andrógino. Cuando cumbres borrascosas fue publicado en 1847, llevaba el nombre de Ellis Bell. La novela recibió críticas mixtas de los críticos, que en su mayoría encontraron el libro increíble e incluso escandaloso. En una edición posterior, Charlotte Brontë escribió un prefacio de la novela, defendiendo el trabajo de su hermana. Desafortunadamente, Emily no sobreviviría para escribir otra obra maestra. Murió de tuberculosis solo un año después. cumbres borrascosas fue publicado.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde escribió muchas obras de teatro y poesía, pero El retrato de Dorian Gray (1890) sería su única novela. No le ganó a Wilde ningún amigo de los críticos literarios, quienes llamaron a la novela todo, desde "afeminado" hasta "inmundo". Siempre deseoso de agradar, Wilde revisó la novela pero dirigió el resto de sus energías a obras de teatro y poesía. Durante la vida de Wilde, sería mejor conocido por estos, pero era Dorian Gray que le valió a Wilde un lugar en el canon literario.

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell nunca había querido publicar una novela, pero luego un colega expresó sus dudas de que Mitchell pudiera lograr tal hazaña. Lo que el viento se llevó fue publicado en 1936, impulsando a Mitchell al tipo exacto de fama que había querido evitar. Ganó el premio Pulitzer de ficción en 1957.

Lo que el viento se llevó sigue siendo uno de los libros más vendidos de todos los tiempos. Mitchell, que odiaba estar en el centro de atención, se negó a publicar otra novela y tuvo poco tiempo para reconsiderar: murió a los 49 años, luego de ser atropellada por un automóvil. Su novela Lost Laysen fue publicado póstumamente en 1996.

Ross Lockridge, hijo

Aunque Ross Lockridge, Jr. aún no se ha convertido en un nombre familiar, el autor recibió grandes elogios por su primera novela, Condado de Raintree, publicado en 1948. El libro a menudo se considera una gran novela estadounidense, lo que coloca a Lockridge en la ilustre compañía de autores legendarios como Mark Twain y Ernest Hemingway. Condado de Raintree coronó el New York Times bestseller list and was adapted for the silver screen in 1951. But it would be Lockridge's last work he committed suicide only three months after Raintree County fue publicado.

Ralph Ellison

When Ralph Ellison published Hombre invisible in 1952, it met with almost immediate acclaim. It won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. Ellison continued to write, hoping to match the success of his debut novel. But in 1967, a fire in his home destroyed Ellison's second manuscript. Ellison persevered, eventually producing a new manuscript that sprawled to over 2,000 pages. After he died, the manuscript was condensed, edited, and published as Juneteenth.

Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak is remembered as a titan of twentieth-century poetry. It's no wonder that his attempt at a novel would be nothing short of spectacular — yet Dr. Zhivago (1957) was almost not published at all. The manuscript had to be smuggled out of Russia and published abroad. In 1958, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and his latest novel certainly contributed to the Swedish committee's decision. Unfortunately the Russian government disapproved of Pasternak's perspective, and he was forced to decline the Nobel Prize under threat of punishment.

Harper Lee

Since Harper Lee published Matar a un ruiseñor in 1960, it has become one of the most popular and enduring works of American literature. The novel earned the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and consistently finds its way onto school reading lists. In 2007, Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to letters. Lee published a second novel the year before her death, but circumstances surrounding it are murky at best. A pesar de que Go Set a Watchman was marketed by its publisher as a sequel to Lee's magnum opus, we now know it was merely a rough draft for To Kill A Mockingbird.

It's unclear why Lee never published again between Mockingbird and the release of Watchman, though she did spend several years on a novel called The Long Goodbye before abandoning the project. Lee has made another mark on literature thanks to her friendship with Truman Capote, whom she assisted in researching In Cold Blood.

John Kennedy Toole

Cuando A Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980, it earned author John Kennedy Toole a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. The brilliant but troubled Toole had finished the novel much earlier. But the stress of consistent rejections from publishers wore on Toole, as did other aspects of his life. He committed suicide in 1969. The book was published thanks to the hard work of Toole's mother and has since been recognized as an outstanding work of twentieth-century American literature.

Whom are we missing? Share your favorite with us in the comments below, and maybe we'll feature it in a future post!


‘The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison’ Review: Staking Out His Territory

Arguably unique in American literature, Ralph Ellison became nearly as well known for what he didn’t publish as for what he did. His towering achievement, “Invisible Man” (1952), which won the National Book Award, was Ellison’s only novel to appear during his lifetime. With that book began the literary community’s anticipation of the follow-up, an eagerness that over the decades shaded into a distant hope and then, in the end—with Ellison’s death at 81 in 1994—brought not so much disappointment as confirmation of what we had already accepted. The posthumous publication of the second novel that Ellison had worked on fitfully and for so long, first in a greatly shortened version (“Juneteenth,” 1999) and then in its mammoth, unfinished entirety (“Three Days Before the Shooting . . . ,” 2010), was anticlimactic the appearances of Ellison’s brilliant essay collections, “Shadow and Act” (1964) and “Going to the Territory” (1986), failed to satisfy those clamoring for another novel, as did the collection of his apprentice stories, “Flying Home” (1996). Nonetheless, Ellison’s eminence endured, and “Invisible Man”—like a single musical note followed by a silence that allows it to resonate—continued to engage the American imagination, and does so still.

That is, perhaps, because the novel went such a long way toward fulfilling that ever-enticing, ultimately doomed mission of defining America, with the yawing gap between the country’s vision of freedom and its unjust reality, with the surreality confronted daily by its darker-skinned people. The journey of the book’s narrator, a young black man on what he thinks is a temporary leave from college, takes him from the absurd conditions of his native Jim Crow South to a seemingly more promising life in New York there he makes his naive way inside the entities and movements that define his time, becoming first a cog in a corporate plant and then the unwitting tool of a Communist-like organization whose real aims the narrator discovers, as he discovers everything, just a little too late. If “Invisible Man” was, is, an indictment of America’s reality, it is also, in its dark, ironic, satiric way, a celebration of its grandness and its potential, as well as its tendency—often in spite of itself—to weave one culture out of many. Ellison was that rare figure who saw through the rhetoric about his nation to its reality but who also, unlike the black nationalists who came along a generation or more after Ellison, saw America’s promise as well as its tragic flaws. Perhaps the narrator of “Invisible Man” speaks for Ellison when he says near the end of the novel, “I denounce and I defend and I hate and I love.”

John F. Callahan, Ellison’s literary executor, has now given us, in collaboration with Marc C. Conner, the 1,000-plus-page “Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison.” The letters span six decades, from 1933, when Ellison was a penniless 20-year-old student at Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama, to 1993, when he was a revered, 80-year-old, New York-based man of letters. This book is a treasure. It serves in part as an alternative to the view of Ellison provided by Arnold Rampersad’s 2007 biography, a highly informative, eminently readable work that nonetheless portrayed its subject as something of a cold fish. The man who emerges from “Selected Letters” is complex and has his prickly moments but comes across, in the main, as a warm human being who valued artistic achievement, meaningful intellectual exchanges, good music, Southern cooking, a sip of whiskey and good times with old friends. And in an age when people text because they can’t be bothered with email, it is a pleasure to read the letters of one who wrote at length, thoughtfully, and with wonderful humor about everything from family stories to literature to the state of his nation to—inevitably—race.

The book is divided into six sections, one per decade, with the letters from the 1980s and ’90s collapsed into the final section. Mr. Callahan provides a general introduction to the book as well as a warm, perceptive introduction to each decade of letters. Ellison’s mother, Ida, saved his letters, cards and notes, and as a young man in New York Ellison began making copies of the letters he wrote, sometimes revising them the way others revise their fiction, essays or poems. Beginning when he was in college, the letters chart every phase of his life.

Ralph Waldo Ellison was born in 1913 in Oklahoma City. When the boy was 3, his father, who ran an ice and coal business, suffered an accident on the job: A large block of ice landed on his abdomen, aggravating an ulcer and leading to a fatal infection. From that time on, Ellison’s mother worked long hours as a domestic to support the family, which included Ralph’s younger brother. In his teens Ellison displayed a bottomless hunger for knowledge, reading the likes of George Bernard Shaw during breaks in a series of odd jobs. He also followed his passion for music: He listened, entranced, at local performances by Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and other jazz greats, and he paid $2 a week for trumpet lessons. Ellison studied the instrument at Tuskegee he left before his senior year, after the school’s music curriculum had been reduced, and made his way to New York City to work and save money as part of his plan—never realized—to return to school eventually. The morning after his arrival in New York, in July 1936, he met the African-American poet Langston Hughes and soon came to know another black writer, Richard Wright, whose novel “Native Son” would appear in 1940. With Wright’s encouragement, Ellison turned to writing prose, first a book review and then some short fiction.


Literary Executor For Ralph Ellison Reflects On Author's Life And Collection Of Letters

Before becoming the internationally recognized author of Hombre invisible, Ralph Ellison grew up a precocious child in Deep Deuce, Oklahoma City. Now, a collection of his letters is available in hardback. KGOU’s Richard Bassett spoke with John Callahan, the literary executor for Ralph Ellison and one of the editors of the book. Bassett began by asking what the letters reveal about Ellison’s feelings for Oklahoma.

John Callahan: Well, he loved Oklahoma, Richard. He loved it while he was there and more and more unreservedly as he left. For example, I'd like to read a letter he writes in 1961 to a woman named Hester Holloway. She was his mother's best friend in Oklahoma City and she typifies the kind of spirit and the quality that these elders had in Oklahoma City, and that formed his life from the point he was a boy on. So he writes:

"That you were adventurous people and that you reached out for some of the joy of life. I've seen a lot of places, countries, and people from places in this society whom if somebody had told me I would grow up to know and observe I would have thought they were trying to kid me but for all of that, there are few of them who impress me as being more interesting or more human or imbued with a greater feeling for life than some of you. This has come to mean a great deal to me and I know that I've been extremely lucky to have grown up in that place and in that time and thus around you. Thanks to those like you I never had to apologize to myself, or make excuses to anyone, for being a Negro. That is much more than anything I got at Tuskegee or anywhere else. I couldn't have bought it with gold, and all that was necessary for me to get it was for you to be true to yourself."

I mean, this is Ellison writing almost 30 years after he's left Oklahoma and you can see how it's still deep in his heart.

Richard Bassett: So Ellison only completed the one novel in his lifetime, "Invisible Man." At one point, though, he lost over 200 pages of a second novel in a fire, which is really kind of to hard to fathom how he would have responded to that.

Callahan: Well, it's funny you should mention that, Richard, because a letter does the trick better than anything else. The fire and the loss of a very important chunk of the second novel grew into something of a myth in terms of the way that Ellison would refer to it. And we're very lucky that he, eight or nine days after the fire—and the fire happened in late November of 1967—and he has agreed to write a preface to this young scholar's book about culture and poverty. And so Elison sits down to write him about why he can't write the preface for the guy and he mentions the fire. And it's a brief passage that I'd like to read:

"On the late afternoon of November 29 at our home in Plainfield, Massachusetts, was destroyed by fire. The loss was particularly severe for me as a section of my work in progress was destroyed with it. I write this to say that as much as I had hoped to write the foreword to your forthcoming book, "Culture and Poverty," under the circumstances, I don't believe I can take time out now. Fortunately, much of my summer's work on the new novel is still in mind. And if my imagination can feed it, I'll be all right. But I must work quickly."

Now, that's very different than a notion that the whole novel was destroyed. It obviously hampered his work on the novel. He had difficulty really getting it back together. Two years later, in 1969, less than two years later, he has written and published probably the best thing that was published in his lifetime from the second novel. It's a magnificent piece of work called "Night Talk." So he managed to do that less than two years after the fire. So it seems to me that this letter sheds light on the notion that the novel was giving Ellison fits long before the fire. Did the fire hurt his efforts? Yeah, yeah, it did. But it didn't comply entirely disable him. I think other literary problems were at the core of his inability to finish the novel. He had, he didn't make certain decisions about what to cut. He talks at the same time in 1969, he talks to the young writer Jim McPherson. They're collaborating on a wonderful essay interview called "Indivisible Man." And Ellison is talking to McPherson in his apartment in New York and is surrounded by all of his manuscripts and typed scripts. And he starts pulling them out and he says to McPherson, I could publish three volumes. I have the material for three novels. But I'm trying to integrate all this material into one. Now, that was in 1969 and I found when I was going through editing "Juneteenth," and then also doing this scholarly edition of the novel that came out in 2010, that these distinct narratives were still there, but he never did completed one and never completed the other two and never knit the three of them together.

Bassett: Despite only completing the one novel, Ellison is rightfully regarded as a literary giant through his stories, essays, and these letters. It's really an extraordinary collection that offers a look at a disappearing craft. Tell us a little bit about his letter-writing process and what letter writing meant to Ralph Ellison.

Callahan: Well, it damn near meant everything to him. He writes Richard Wright in 1953—January 53—about the hiatus in his letter writing. He hadn't written many letters since sometime in 1948 or 1949 because he was on the home stretch of "Invisible Man." So, he writes to Dick Wright in January of 1953. And he just flat out says somewhere along the way, I've flat out lost the joy of corresponding. And he goes on to say that there was a time when he never felt as much himself as when he was writing letters, and he doesn't know why that pleasure, that joy has gone away. Now, that's in early 1953. But he gets it back . The wonderful thing is he gets it back and from then on the decade of the fifties has twice as many letters as any other decade.

Bassett: It was fun to read about his interactions with other notable 20th century writers and artists like Richard Wright, as you just mentioned, and William "Bill" Faulkner. Are there any interesting stories in the collection that you'd like to share that readers might be drawn to?

Callahan: Well, it's interesting because one of the correspondences that seems to me to be really as important as any other is Saul Bellow. Ellison and Bellow had a real affinity as friends. There is an amusing story about the letter he writes to Faulkner. I think it's in 1957. And few people knew this. I didn't really know this until I came across the letter. There's a kind of writing, or Association of American Writers. And Faulkner for a while is charged with writing the other writers and to ask him to do this or that. There's a situation in 1957 where a number of writers and artists and various people get together and petition Eisenhower, who's president then, to release Ezra Pound from his confinement in St. Elizabeth's mental hospital. There were two people, two American writers who oppose this, one Ellison, and Bellow was the other. And Ellison writes to Faulkner, who's asked him for it to do a couple of things, and he says, I'm fine with this and that, but I'm not fine with your petition to the president about Ezra Pound. And he goes on to say how much he admires Pound's poetry. But he feels that Pound's actions in World War II, wherefrom fascist Italy he makes these recordings that are vicious things. Not only against Jews, but also against black people. And and he says to Faulkner, look, if Pound and his views had triumphed, I wouldn't be here to write you this letter. So he says, doesn't mean I don't love his poetry, that I haven't admired and gotten a lot from his poetry, but it seems to me that the punishment that he's serving is just. That was Ellison. You know, what he believed he was prepared to go with.

Bassett: So one of the most fascinating things about this collection is that it does provide a window into American history. The letters span, you know, 60 years of the 20th century from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Callahan: Ellison's letters have both a timely and a timeless quality to them. And in our culture there is a sense that every moment is utterly different from every other moment. And that's true. But some of the values that we have or don't have, certainly some of the values that Ralph Ellison had, remained constant. That's not to say they remain unchanging, but there's a fundamental quality and truth to them. And you mentioned American history . In one such cases, he writes a letter to his old teacher—the guy was the librarian while he was at Tuskegee—Morteza Sprague. And he writes it two days after the Supreme Court hands down the Brown v. Board decision. He writes it on May 19th, 1954, and he writes it about the decision declaring segregation unconstitutional and declaring integration as the law of the land. And I think I will read some of that letter:

"Well so now the court has found in our favor and recognized our human psychological complexity and citizenship. And another battle of the Civil War has been won. The rest is up to us and I'm very glad. The decision came while I was reading "A Stillness at Appomattox," and a study of the "Negro Freedman" and it made a heightening of emotion and a telescoping of perspective, yes, and a sense of the problems that lie ahead left me wet-eyed. I could see the whole road stretched out and it got all mixed up with this book I'm trying to write and it left me twisted with joy and a sense of inadequacy. Why did I have to be a writer during a time when events sneer openly at your efforts defying consciousness and form? Well, so now the judges have found Negroes must be individuals and that is hopeful and good. What a wonderful world of possibilities are unfolded for the children! For me there is still the problem of making meaning out of the past and I guess I'm lucky I described Bledsoe before he was checked out. Now I'm writing about the evasion of identity that is another characteristically American problem that must be about to change. I hope so. It's giving me enough trouble."

And then he ends with this wonderful mock toast to Sprague:

"Anyway, here's to integration, the only integration that counts: that of the personality. See you soon, Ralph."

So he gets out a whole lot there. And it seems to me he talks about that decision and he's very much aware of some of the ambiguities, not about the decision itself, but about the consequences and effects that that decision will have. And one of them that disturbed him, and actually Toni Morrison in very similar ways, is the way that carefully built and nourished communities of African-Americans, black people, especially the teachers who couldn't find positions anywhere but Negro schools, which were segregated, and they had given their wonderful gifts to the black students they taught. And in many sections of the country, many school districts that got wiped out. And they, you know, some black kids were integrated into white schools, but they didn't bring any teachers with them, you know. And then, his point did that integration of the personality, that integration, really is work every single last person has got to do. And that is incredibly tied to integration of races in America. It's a very moving letter. It makes me tongue-tied.

Bassett: There is this line in the introduction of the book where you write that Ralph Ellison's story is an African-American variation of the American dream.

Callahan: Sure. Here he is. He's a kid. He's growing up and in Oklahoma City and he loses his father when he's three years old and his mother must become a domestic. They're very, very poor. He's obviously a gifted child and he takes up music. But he's also in many ways, he's really got to understand solitude. So you say, well, here he is, these are the cards he was dealt. But Oklahoma City is a very key place for jazz during the 20s and when Ellison's growing up early 30s. And he really loves jazz. He sneaks around to some of the jazz joints and hides in the shadows and listens to Jimmy Rushing. He listens to Basie's orchestra. He hears Louis Armstrong a couple of times and never forgets what he sounded like then. And so, you know, he has his dreams and he talks about his friends and him. He calls Renaissance, we were Renaissance men, men, Renaissance boys. And they all had their dreams. They all had their aspirations and their ambitions. And he kept at it and left Oklahoma City to go to Tuskegee, where he got other chances. And he went there determined to be a composer and a musician. And that didn't work. But he seized on writing and he became a writer. And it was a dream that was, that was his, but it was connected to what was to the possibilities in American life.

Bassett: So, I am curious about your experience putting this collection together. Did you learn anything new about Ellison or what his perspective offers, or what was the emotional experience like for you doing this project?

Callahan: Reading the letters just gives me a sense of the richness of this guy's consciousness. And there's another point when Harvard asks him to address the 25th reunion of its class of 1949. So this would have been in '74. And Ellison gives an address and this is right at about the time of . Nixon hasn't yet resigned . but all the wealthier of chaos that went with that time is still very much present. And he talks about hubris as being an American characteristic. And he reminds these graduates of Harvard that hubris almost inevitably leads to nemesis. So then he says, so what are we to do now? How do we live today? What kinds of qualities do we Americans need? And then he says, I guess the best I can say is we ought to go back to that earlier Ralph Waldo, meaning Ralph Waldo Emerson. And that we need conscience, more conscience and more consciousness. And then he adds a word into this. He says we need conscience and conscientious consciousness. So I learned that about him, just how the man was conscious from day to day. And then many other things. I mean, I knew, of course, I'd been to Oklahoma a number of times, I knew that he was fond of Oklahoma, but I did not know how deep and profound his love for Oklahoma City was, aware, as he was, of the limitations of Jim Crow, Oklahoma. Also aware of the way that the people in the black community, in Deep Deuce, were so rich as human beings. And you can't miss that reading the letters.

Bassett: Who should read this collection and what do you hope people take away from it?

Callahan: There is a human being. There's a man. There's a human being. And, particularly in these times, by God, there's an American. That's what we need to be. We need to bring the kind of humanity and compassion and brilliance and risk, bravery, to our lives as we lead them, as we're conscious and as we go through life and experience things and our citizens. We need more of his conscientious consciousness.

Bassett: So as someone that knew Ellison well, what do you think he would say about 21st century America?

Callahan: Oh, I can tell you what he'd say. Every time I saw him in person or talked to him on the phone, he said the same damn thing. He said, "God, John. It's a crazy country." And he said that with what he might call a sanity-saving comedy. He didn't say that in horror, or being aghast or the world is going to collapse and is gonna be destroyed and he's gonna cease to exist in a half an hour. He had a sense of . America was a tragic-comic place with a tragic-comic experience. And for Ralph, that comedy, and he talks about it, writes a letter to McPherson where he says, you know, we've got to keep our sense of black comedy because it keeps us sane. I mean, he believed we had to laugh. He said if Americans stop laughing at each other, they're going to start killing each other. La guerra civil. And he, Ellison, believed in some ways the Civil War was never over, not yet over entirely in America. So it seems to me, again, there's a sense of, he insisted on a complexity. So what he is, you know, what do you expect? It's a crazy country. So he loved the country and he was impatient at much of the country, angry at the things of the country, but also joyous about much in American life. And he still would be.

Bassett: You think so?

Callahan: Sí. Because the other side of that coin, it's a crazy, in other words, we can't deal with America without realizing it's a crazy country. And that word crazy, you know, turns and spins a lot of ways. It's not just a horror. There's horror and darkness, and lack of compassion and viciousness. But there's also compassion and generosity, and all these things mix and have mixed. And again, the guy just had a tremendous sense of life, a tremendous sense of vitality and curiosity. You know . that's one of the reasons . I was with him his last days. I was with him when he died. And I remember him saying, why, John? And then, as if he was afraid I might not understand what he meant, he said, I don't mean why, I mean why ahora. He knew he was dying. It was why now. And what he had to come to grips with was not just simply death, but dying now, dying in April, April 16th, 1994. You know, and he had to develop in a very short time a certain readiness to die because he was so curious about what was happening in himself, around him, in the country, in New York City, down in the park and he wanted to be a part of it.


The Jazz of Ralph Ellison

It is too difficult and twistingly deep to start from the beginning, when the great man, Ralph Ellison, was young and lived to put words on paper. When he was suddenly made comfortable and well-off from that staggering first novel, Invisible Man, and then went, you might say, underground. For four decades, he tried to get his second book written and published. But the chasm only got deeper for him. And it’s easy to say it was the jazz and the Harlem nights and the stares and whispers and literary gossip that stalled him.

Nadie sabe con seguridad. Call it the mystery of Ralph Ellison.

Call it the obsession of two Lewis & Clark scholars who formed a bond at the college and went on to devote more than a decade of their lives to the great writer’s unfinished novel. The result of John Callahan’s and Adam Bradley’s editing prowess has now been published, by the esteemed Modern Library imprint, as Three Days Before the Shooting. An eccentric and voluminous work (1,000- plus pages), it is a kind of investigative look into Ellison’s mindset, a writer long thought to be, not unlike Harper Lee with Matar a un ruiseñor, a one-book wonder.

Yes, Ellison wrote essays and short stories, but the public wanted, demanded, insisted on a follow-up to Invisible Man. He made them wait, and wait, and then the breath went out of him. (A posthumous work, Diecinueve de junio, was edited by Callahan and published in 1999, and while many admired it, many did not, claiming it was still an unfinished work.)

The critics have weighed in on Tres días, among them the staff at Booklist, calling the book “eloquent, dreamlike … allegorical, lyrical.” The long-awaited opus—eccentric, quirky, bold: not unlike Ellison himself, to judge from the biographies— comes face-to-face with the great mystery of Ellison: why he could not get his next novel finished and out to the public why he seemed to deny himself a Second Act in American Letters.

Why he, in fact, allowed a great guessing game to take place in the literary world about his work.

But let’s start in another place—that place where research and document combing and reading and sifting through old handwritten letters started to coalesce into a new piece of jazz.

Writers and researchers from the world over travel to Washington, D.C., to tackle their respective projects inside the James Madison Memorial Building, which houses the Library of Congress. It’s a huge place of wooden desks and lamplight and hushed-up voices.

During the summer of 2007, I was a couple of years into my own writing project, a biography of the prizefighter Sugar Ray Robinson. (Ellison used to pop in and out of Robinson’s hepcat nightclub in Harlem, called Sugar Ray’s.)

Inside the Madison, you sit in rooms reading old newspapers on microfilm, or sit at a workspace waiting for this or that obscure book to be delivered by one of the staffers, or sit there worrying about whether you’re making any real progress on your project. Then, invariably before the clock strikes noon, you start wondering what’s for lunch in the cafeteria down the long hallway, where a group of mostly soft-voiced black women work. On many days the offerings tend toward the Southern: black-eyed peas, cornbread, cabbage, chicken.

It was in the Madison cafeteria that I first met Adam Bradley BA ’96. Tall, light-complexioned, quick to smile, he wouldn’t tell me what he was working on. “It’s a secret project,” he said. “I can’t talk about it.”

I’ve worked as a newspaperman for 20-odd years when he told me his project was secret, he might as well have thrown a piece of red meat to a tiger. I pounced with questions. He grinned me away, changed the subject, upon which I circled back to it. As the days passed, I’d run into him in the hallways, still begging for any information on what he was working on.

I imagine I wore him down.

“It’s a project involving Ralph Ellison,” he said one day. He had been dispatched to the Library of Congress by John Callahan, Odell Professor of Humanities at Lewis & Clark—and the literary executor of Ellison’s estate. So a pebble had been dropped into the lake before me, and the little waves kept washing ashore in the days ahead.

It soon became clear that Ellison wasn’t suffering from writer’s block he was, rather, a writer afire: he wrote and wrote and wrote.

Not long thereafter we had lunch in the sunshine at a little café across the street from the Madison Building. Bradley then began confiding to me he was working, along with John Callahan, on the literary remains of Ralph Ellison’s second novel. And there was a mystery: how come Ralph Ellison was never able to complete another novel after Hombre invisible? I was fascinated. When I went home that evening, I pulled out my copy of Hombre invisible. Yes, I now suddenly wondered: What had happened to Ralph Ellison? What had he been doing for all those years? Bradley said he and Callahan had been combing through the Ellison archives for years—nearly 13 at that moment, which I found astonishing— doing a good deal of that work on the Lewis & Clark campus.

Ellison died on April 16, 1994, at age 80, in his Manhattan apartment. It seemed that what the world wanted from the National Book Award–winning author—his second novel—died with him. But now here sat Adam Bradley, working closely with John Callahan, telling me the two of them had a bead on what had happened inside the artistic world of Ralph Ellison through the years. I knew of Ellison, but now I really wanted to know: Who in the world is Adam Bradley? And who is John Callahan? And how did they come to be dropped into this complex literary score? And what were they finding in it— inside all those pages and Ellisonian riffs?

It is a compelling story that cuts across race and literature and that turns on that peculiar human connection between hero and admirer in one generation, and advocate and student in another.

In 1977 John Callahan—energetic, voluble, curious—was teaching literature at Lewis & Clark. Like many, he had fallen under the hypnotic spell of Hombre invisible. When that novel was published, Ellison was mostly unknown in the literary world, save by an intellectual crowd including the likes of novelist Saul Bellow, novelist Robert Penn Warren, and poet Langston Hughes.

Critics hailed Hombre invisible for its bravery, originality, and sweeping prose. The book’s narrator was unnamed, and the theme of the book revolved around the plight of blacks in America and the titanic scars inflicted by stereotyping. The reviews were mighty with praise there were literary honors there were feature stories in publications for a time Ellison was the most famous Negro writer (the term used then) in America. He soon announced he was at work on his next book. He had readers willing to wait both in America and abroad. And wait they were forced to do. The years began to roll by—5 then 10, 10 then 15—and still no second novel.

Callahan did what academics mesmerized by a certain kind of book— a book that gets studied, constantly debated, and called a classic—sometimes do: he taught it and even wrote about it. His 1977 essay, “Chaos, Complexity, and Possibility: The Historical Frequencies of Ralph Waldo Ellison,” did not go unnoticed by Ellison himself. The novelist soon invited Callahan to visit him in New York City. The two formed a lasting and soulful friendship. They shared meals and sipped wine together and talked about the world of academia. Ellison’s wife, Fanny, came to admire Callahan. Upon the writer’s death in 1994, Fanny Ellison named Callahan literary executor of Ellison’s estate.

And yet, what would a literary executor do regarding an author with one full-length novel—albeit a novel with defying endurance—in his canon? The boulder at the bottom of the hill was always the second novel. In Fanny’s mind, that meant the voluminous papers and drafts Ellison had left behind—the work-in-progress that was to be the second novel. It would be her husband’s follow-up gift to the world.

Fanny Ellison had the boxes shipped to Callahan at Lewis & Clark. And the boxes just kept coming—filled with scribbled notes, thousands of typed pages, and 80 old computer discs—an accumulation of material that Ellison had hoarded over decades. It soon became clear that Ellison wasn’t suffering from writer’s block he was, rather, a writer afire: he wrote and wrote and wrote, an exacting man with a terrifying belief that his second novel must be as grand, and grandly received, as his first —or perhaps more so.

So there stood, on the Lewis & Clark campus, a harried professor with Ellison materials raining down upon him. He needed help. A curious and nimble mind was called for a pair of coltish legs wouldn’t hurt either.

Sometimes, in literature, the stars align just so: Perhaps a nomadic writer working against the backdrop of a segregated America is bold enough to proclaim he intends to write a Great American Novel. And damned if Ralph Ellison doesn’t pull it off.

And then the stars aligned again. Enter a young student who arrived at Lewis & Clark in 1992 from Salt Lake City. White mother and black father. Haunted, but not in a frightful way, by his multiracial background. He struck many as a precocious student, a reader, and a worker. The professor took notice of the student. He befriended him and, sensing something arresting about his background, introduced him to the works of the writer who had cracked open the discussion of race in America all those years ago.

While he was growing up, Adam Bradley found his father to be a mystery. Ellison’s own father had died when Ralph was a young boy. “Be your own father,” Ellison once wrote. Easily uttered and hard to fathom. John Callahan—who had issues with his own father too—plucked Bradley from the student body and tested the young man’s curiosity about America and history and literature. Then the professor told the student about his Ellison project. Bradley jumped at it. He was all of 19 years old.

The project would stretch into years. Bradley and Callahan pored through the Ellison archives, trying to piece together, as best they could, the mystery of Ellison’s tortuous timetable. They measured Ellison’s output—as well as his lack of output while tinkering with 1980s-era computers—and delved into his creative mind.

So it comes down to being the story of two men, a young scholar and an older scholar, a black man and a white man, operating for a common purpose.

Initially, Bradley thought the project was drudgery, riffling through boxes and poring over the contents of folders. But over time, he found the process fascinating. He spent years stitching together clues about Ellison’s work habits. He had sessions with Callahan about a writer at work who had hit some kind of wall. He pondered the riddle of what Ellison’s switch from typewriter to computer seemed to do to his psyche. And yet, as I sat with Bradley at the Library of Congress, asking him about his own life, it came to me that—perhaps unknowingly at the time—he was searching for his own identity. He himself, in a way, is an Ellisonian figure for the 21st century.

So it comes down to being the story of two men, a young scholar and an older scholar, a black man and a white man, operating for a common purpose.

Both Bradley and Callahan have put their respective life histories into this mammoth work, each gleaning from Ellison, it now seems, lessons about art, perseverance, and the folly of perfection.

Tres días is not, in the least, a linear novel as both Bradley and Callahan have explained, it is an amalgam of artistic ambition. Readers will take from it what they will. It is Ellison scratching out the beautiful music he made in the dark. It is Ellison at war with words.

On a wintry February night in the nation’s capital—baby, it’s cold outside, as Ellison himself might have put it— some hardy souls are sitting in an auditorium at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Adam Bradley and John Callahan are on stage talking about their just-released Ellison chronicle. It is a book about race and an American politician and an assassination. They talk about differing versions of Ellison chapters, how he changed gears and wrote anew, trying to perfect a character’s outlines. Audience members sit riveted. There are questions and questions. It turns into a fascinating riff between the two men about America, President Obama, loyalties, the passage of time, a redemptive novel published back in 1952.

It seems rather fortuitous to both Callahan and Bradley that Three Days has been published in the time of Obama. For if one chooses to reflect on what America has done with his election—a nation bloodied by slavery now anointing a black man as its leader—it represents a leap both moving and profound. It’s a moment, the two editors believe, that Ellison himself could have envisioned. They called him a visionary writer, a figure who never stopped wrestling with race all the while hearing the optimistic notes on the American score. The Ellison mystery, then, seems to represent but Ellison in motion, like America herself.

“I think this book will bring about a profound shift in the study of Ellison,” Bradley asserts.

“Ellison,” says Callahan, “will now be seen in the round.”

Both editors have now turned their attention to other work. Callahan, on sabbatical from Lewis & Clark, is trying to finish The Learning Room, his second novel, whose hero is a 5-year-old autistic child—an invisible boy, perhaps. Bradley, who completed his doctorate at Harvard, is now an associate professor of English at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

In May, Yale University will publish Bradley’s next book, titled Ralph Ellison in Progress. The book is dedicated to the professor who saw him, all those years ago, striding across campus amid the fir trees: “To John F. Callahan—On the Higher Frequencies.”

It’s a nice touch by Bradley. It also has echoes.

Callahan dedicated his 1988 book, In the African-American Grain, “To Ralph Ellison—on the más alto frequencies.”

Both dedications, of course, are a nod to Ellison, who had written of those who dwell on “the lower frequencies”—where the mind might not soar as high, where ambitions are often laid to waste, where dreams lie unfulfilled. Yet Ellison, even as his America moved forward in fits and starts, through the smoke of riots and assassinations, believed. He believed in the higher form of art where literature might be produced.

And on a cold night in the nation’s capital, as two scholars of different races, of different generations, discussed Ellison’s work, we were all in tune with the higher frequencies.

Wil Haygood is a staff writer for the Washington Post and the author, most recently, of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson.


Ver el vídeo: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Summary u0026 Analysis (Enero 2022).